Ever hear of The Pirates of Dark Water? I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't. This short-lived cartoon only lasted for 21 episodes and never exactly made it to the mainstream, if you know what I mean. Personally, I loved the show. Heck, I even have the Super Nintendo game in my collection. When Warner Brothers announced a DVD archive release of the complete series I simply had to see if my sense of nostalgia did justice to the show.
The Pirates of Dark Water takes place on the alien world of Mer. A legend persists there of Thirteen Treasures of Rule, which are rare and powerful artifacts said to hold great power and wealth. Mer is a dangerous place filled with pirates and an evil form of water that just so happens to be dark. There are those that would save the environment and protect their planet and those that would live in the darkness without morals.
On the side of good there's a young boy named Ren who finds out in the first episode he's actually a prince from a kingdom named Octopon. Growing up in a lighthouse outside the city meant he was rather a country bumpkin not aware of what was really going on in the world. When his father, the king, escapes from the clutches of an evil pirate named Bloth and washes ashore, Ren's true destiny is revealed. With proper motivation Ren heads out on a quest to collect the Thirteen Treasures of Rule and stop the Dark Water from advancing. He's joined by fellow adventurers Ioz, a surly pirate out for glory, and Tula, a waitress with great power. There's also a monkey bird named Niddler that used to work for Bloth. Together they fight Bloth in every episode, find the occasional treasure, and do whatever it takes to help the people of Mer.
In all honesty the core concept in The Pirates of Dark Water is nothing special. It's your typical heroes against villains plot with some environmental causes thrown in for good measure. Think of the show loosely as Captain Planet on an alien world with pirates and you'll essentially be on the right track. The thing I'll say for Dark Water is that the plot actually grows as the show moves forward. It's not quite as episodic as other shows of the era and the story continually advances. This helps the characters to mature, the world to expand, and the conflict between our heroes and Bloth to escalate. It turns out to be a rich, rewarding experience which is kind of rare for a kids' show.